NASCAR: Busch wins first pole of season
By Howard Ulman
LOUDON, N.H. — Kyle Busch was the last driver to go in Friday’s Sprint Cup qualifying, and he made the most of the opportunity.
Busch posted a lap of 133.417 mph to capture his first pole position of the season for Sunday’s race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Kasey Kahne, who drove 133.403 mph on the fastest of his two laps, will start alongside Busch.
“It was a good lap for us, but I thought I was probably going to be third or fourth,” said Busch, who won the 2006 NASCAR race at Loudon and will be starting on from the front row for the third time this year.
Busch nearly brushed the wall near the end of his qualifying run when “the car slipped right at the last second,” he said. “There’s no mark on the car, so all is good there.” He went on to his ninth career pole.
Denny Hamlin was in line for the top position with a lap of 133.399 mph until Kahne pushed him back a spot in the 44-car field.
Hamlin had back spasms last week that cause him to skip the Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway and shelved him for practice for the Sprint Cup stop. But he felt better Friday.
“Back spasms come and go. Obviously, last week was a bad week for it,” Hamlin said. “(I) don’t feel any lingering symptoms from it.”
Rounding out the top 10 were Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart.
The top 10 qualifying times were very close, from Busch’s lap of 28.548 seconds to Stewart’s of 28.651. And only .047 seconds separated the top eight.
“As far as the times, everyone is really close, so you have to go for all you can get,” Kahne said. “I was aggressive on the first lap.”
Matt Kenseth, who leads the Sprint Cup series in points, was 27th with a time of 29.023.